PHILADELPHIA -- The Chicago Blackhawks struck out Friday in their first attempt to acquire another top-six center, but Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman might not be done trying just yet.
The Blackhawks attempted to pry Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, but were beaten out by the Anaheim Ducks, who sent forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and their first- and third-round draft choices to Vancouver. Canucks general manager Jim Benning said the Blackhawks were “right in it until the end.”
Bowman wouldn’t comment on missing out on Kesler, but he didn’t rule out the Blackhawks going after other players this offseason. Chicago has also been reported to be interested in Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza and unrestricted free-agent center Paul Stastny.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to talk about the talks,” Bowman said Friday of the Kesler trade. “You know he’s in Anaheim now. We’re not going to comment on the whole process. I don’t think there’s a lot of benefit in that.
“There’s a lot of options we have as we look over the next couple weeks. There’s free agency coming up. There’s trades. There’s a lot of things that can change between now and October. I think I’ve been pretty consistent in saying we believe in our team, and we believe in the options we have from within. If there’s other ways to improve the team through a trade or free agency, we’ll look at it, too.
"We’ve got a great group. The core group of our team has accomplished an awful lot over the last five years, this year included. You’re never happy when you don’t get the whole way. You have to recognize you’re close. There’s a lot of ways to improve your team leading into next year. We’re going to keep working at it, and we’ll be ready to go in October."
The Ducks and Nashville Predators, two of the Blackhawks’ Western Conference rivals, felt they improved their teams Friday. The Ducks added Kesler, while the Predators acquired goal scorer James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
Bowman said he wasn’t concerned about what other teams in the conference were doing. He said he doesn’t compare the Blackhawks that way.
“There was a lot of talk this year when the [St. Louis] Blues went and acquired [Steve] Ott, [Ryan] Miller,” Bowman said. “That must mean that you've got to go do something. We don’t approach it that way. When one team does something, it may work for them, it may not.
“We’re not trying to respond to what other people do. We've got to look at what we do well and what works for us. It’s a puzzle to put together. But I don’t think it’s helpful to be reactionary. We got our own situation. We’re going to work at that.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was on the same page with Bowman on Friday. Quenneville said the Blackhawks would look to improve their team if possible, but he wasn’t worried about their situation at second-line center, a position at which they have used a number of different players in the past few seasons. He did note that the Los Angeles Kings, the team that eliminated the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals, happened to be deep at the position.
“We played against a team in L.A. down the middle who had four great centermen with great experience,” Quenneville said. “That helped their hockey club.
“We always talk about any way we can improve our hockey club. There are things you look at. We always have the discussion. We’re asked quite regularly who’s going to play in that [second-line center] spot. Who is going to be the second-line center? Who is the second-line center? As we go along here, we’re always comfortable with our options. If we can improve ourselves in that area, I’m sure that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Bowman accomplished a portion of his offseason goals Friday by re-signing forwards Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith and goaltender Antti Raanta to two-year deals. All three players were set to become restricted free agents July 1.
The Blackhawks might have to shed some salary in the offseason. The NHL announced Friday the salary cap would be $69 million for 2014-15, and Chicago is already about $500,000 above that number, according to capgeek.com.
Bowman said he wasn’t concerned about fitting under the salary cap.
“It’s about right where we thought, right where I thought,” Bowman said. “I remember months ago when everyone was all excited about the number, and I told you guys let’s wait and see where it is, be more cautious. We’ve kind of been expecting it to be right around this range. I wasn’t really surprised.
"We got an idea what we’re going to do going forward leading into next summer, this summer. We got a lot of decisions to make, but I’m confident we’re going to be in a good spot in October.”